AFTON — Opponents of the proposed Constitution Pipeline warned federal officials Monday night that licensing the natural gas transmission system would have severe negative consequences on environmentally fragile areas and create serious safety risks for those living near the pathway.
William Roche of Davenport, a cranial and facial reconstruction specialist, said his research into the “burn radius” of past pipeline explosions led him to conclude that a telecommunications fiber optic cable in Delaware County, bundling lines for numerous telecommunications providers, could be “incinerated” in the event of a rupture of the Constitution Pipeline.
“We would lose all of our ability to communicate instantaneously,” said Roche, who owns a parcel of 127 acres off White Hill Road. He also voiced concern that residents and their homes would be incinerated if the pipeline ruptured near them.
Roche said he made his conclusions based on the diameter of the proposed line — 30 inches — and its compression: 800 pounds per square inch. The burn radius would be wider if more compression were added to the pipeline, he noted.
Roche was one of about 250 people who turned out at Afton High School for the the first of three scoping hearings held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that would have to give its approval in order for the pipeline to be constructed. While FERC officials said the hearing was designed to elicit input on the environmental and safety impacts of the project, some residents told the federal regulators they saw the project facilitating hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in Pennsylvania, an activity they argued that should stop because of the pollution it allegedly causes.
Giuseppe Fiduli of Coe Hill Road, Davenport, told the federal officials that the value of his home — based on a new appraisal — dropped by $100,000 based on its proximity to the potential pipeline. Noting he and his family moved to the area from Long Island several years ago, he said he now worries about the possible health impact the pipeline will have on his children, as well as the environmental impacts on wetlands, streams and wildlife.
Rudy Whitbeck of Sidney said he was adamantly opposed to the licensing of the pipeline, pointing out that the alternative route intended to bring it close to Interstate 88, dubbed “Route M,” would cross his springs and his driveway.
He triggered a burst of applause from many in the high school auditorium when he told FERC officials: “This is a violation of the 14th Amendment — my right to life, liberty and prosperity.”
Anne Stack, who also owns property on Coe Hill Road in Davenport, said she and her husband had been planning to build their retirment home on that land. But the pipeline plan, she said, has put that dream on standstill.
“Our property will be rendered worthless if this goes through,” she said.
Another impacted landowner, William Turick of East Meredith, urged FERC to study the effects of blasting in order to carve out the corridor for the pipeline. He predicted construction of the pipeline would increase the risk of flooding and lead to the removal of hundreds of thousands of trees.
Turick also said FERC should require the pipeline builder to pay for any increases in homeowners’ insurance for landowners along the route. He said Nationwide Insurance will no longer write policies for those with pipelines or gas drilling operations on their property.
The next scoping hearing is at 7 p.m. tonight at Schoharie High School. FERC officials said citizens may also submit comments to the agency through Oct. 9. The testimony and comments will be analyzed as FERC assembles a draft environmental impact statement on the project. Once that document is published, the public will be given another 45 days to comment on it. When the FERC staff completes a final environmental impact statement, it will be forwarded to the five FERC commissioners who will ultimately decide if the project is licensed.
Cindy Ivey, the manager of public outreach for the Constiution Pipeline, noted the primary route for running gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to the Schoharie County town of Wright is 121 miles long. If “Route M” ends up being selected, the pipeline would be 127 miles long.
She said the project’s lead investor, Williams Partners, has spent approximately $1 billion in safety and security upgrades to its pipelines since 2002.